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Prayer spot on a treacherous highway

Even agnostics start humming prayers on reaching Panthial, which is the washed away stretch of strategic Jammu Srinagar National Highway and is vulnerable to even a slight drizzle.

india Updated: Apr 06, 2007 18:47 IST

Even agnostics start humming prayers on reaching Panthial, the malignant spot on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway, the solitary surface link to the Kashmir Valley.

Located at 177 km north of Jammu, Panthial is the washed away stretch of strategic NH1 and vulnerable to even a slight drizzle, which can trigger heavy mudslides blocking the highway.

The road remained closed for more than eight weeks intermittently in the first three months due to incessant rainfall and snowfall in the region, nearly choking routine life in the Jammu and Kashmir Valley.

While the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the highway under its project Beacon, helped in the clearance of the road, passing through it continues to be like fiddling dangerously with life.

"One look at this road stretch and you start shivering. For me the experience of travelling on this road this time around has been more threatening than being caught up in crossfire," said Abdul Majid, a student of University of Kashmir, sharing his travel experiences.

Around 500-metre stretch of road at Panthial was washed away by recent heavy landslides and shooting stones. Since then the heavy and prolonging traffic jams is just an order of the day. Only one vehicle is allowed to pass through the diversion - carved out of a rock.

Ahead of the stretch of the damaged road from Jammu is a bridge where people of all religions, even the atheists and agnostics, make fervent prayers, bowing their heads to the almighty and looking up to the heavens so as to cross safely.

Vikey Sharma of Bakshi Nagar Jammu was praying all the time when he drove his car through the dangerous portion of Panthial - predicted to be unpredictable.

"This is the biggest blunder of my life," Sharma said, about his decision to drive through the road.

Over the last 59 years of the independence, despite many recommendations for an alternate connectivity, people continue suffering the jerks and jolts.

The opening of the Mughal Road, through which the Mughal kings entered Indian subcontinent from Central Asia, continues to be a distant dream.

The construction of the road, which was scheduled to open this year, is on at a snail's pace.

In the past, the Srinagar-Jammu Highway has consumed hundreds of lives and the accident-prone sites on the road have acquired their names like Shaitani Nallah (Devil's stream) and Khooni nallah (Killer stream).

First Published: Apr 05, 2007 10:54 IST